La Maison Lesage in fact belongs to Paraffection SA, Chanel's collection of fashion workshops established in the late 1990's to preserve their heritage.
It was a three-and-a-half-hour visit, starting with a tour of the atelier, where industrious petit-mains were deep in concentration, bent over a personal project or a special request from a client, in a room brightly lit by afternoon sunshine. It was quieter than it was last week, we were told, when the last of the haute couture orders were being completed in a frenzy before their presentation this week!
Of particular interest was the archive. When Albert and Marie-Louise Lesage took over the embroidery atelier Michonet in 1924, it came with its collection of historical designs and prototypes, dating back to its founding in 1858. It was fascinating to see the evolution of embroidery styles from the days of the legendary Charles Frederic Worth (demure and ladylike) through to those of the iconic Elsa Schiaparelli (powerful and vibrant) and beyond.
The visit concluded with a lesson in embroidery at the École Lesage, where we laboured over a tiny square piece of beaded embroidery, each line utilizing a different technique expertly taught by the instructors. An hour of wonky needlework later, we were the proud owners of both bona fide Maison Lesage embroidered patches, and a sincere appreciation for the skill of the petits mains that are such a vital though hidden part of haute couture creation process.
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